When I visited Brian Di Frank at Whetstone Audio on Saturday, he invited me to a listening event at End of an Ear later that evening. End of an Ear is a record store located at 2209 S. 1st Street in Austin, and Brian told me it's his favorite record shop in the area. Brian brought over an ice chest full of Modelos, a Rega RP1 turntable, a Rega Brio 3 amplifier and a pair of Rega RS5 speakers and set it all up in a corner of the store. Brian's mission was to prove just how good vinyl can sound, even on a modest system.
This was the first time I've actually heard the new Rega RP1 turntable in action, and I have to admit that it sounds really good, much better than the P1 it replaced. Brian was able to achieve some pretty remarkable sound in a fairly odd space (bare walls, tile floor, off in a corner). Look at it this way...the RP1 is $445 (and that includes arm and a cartridge), the Rega Brio 3 is $695 (and that includes an MM phono stage), and the RS5s are $1595 and offer close to full-range sound. You could even forsake a little bass and go with the RS3s for $1195 or even the small bookshelf RS1 monitors for $695 and still have an analog-based system that is highly musical.
As for End of an Ear, this is a truly great little record shop with a fairly large inventory. I wish I hadn't blown my monthly music budget at Waterloo Records earlier that day...End of an Ear had everything Waterloo had and at a lower price! They're pretty packed with both new and used LPs, and they have a fairly large selection of CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs as well. They even had a little corner devoted to vintage receivers and inexpensive turntables to help vinyl newbies get started for just a little bit of money. Or you could just head down to Whetstone Audio and get that all-Rega system and be happy for the rest of your life.
Again, End of an Ear is located at 2209 S. 1st Street in Austin, Texas, and their phone number is (512) 462-6008. Whetstone Audio is located at 2401 E. 6th Street and Brian's phone number is (512) 477-8503.